Saturday, December 31, 2011

REVIEW: Death Comes to Pemberley

Since I love both Jane Austen and P.D. James, I was thrilled to hear that James was coming out with a Pride and Prejudice sequel that was also a murder mystery. Now, most Austen sequels are dreadful, but I figured if anyone could pull it off, James could. And I was right - this book was delightful. The language was right on, and James got the tone, too, which is rarer. Her characterization managed to stay consistent with the original while also allowing for growth and development, and I particularly liked how Elizabeth and Darcy had a good relationship but still cared about other things than standing around mooning at each other. James clearly spent a lot of time thinking through the consequences of the events of P&P, and had some interesting and plausible ideas, especially regarding what various people would think of Elizabeth. There are a few fun cameos I don't want to spoil, and the court scenes are particularly well-done. (Darcy has Ideas about how things should be reformed. It's pretty amazing.) Oh, and the mystery itself is solid and resolves in my favorite way: the solution completely surprised me but instantly made more sense than any of the other theories the characters or I had been considering.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Change in Reading Venue

I'm still reading Death Comes to Pemberley, and it is delightful! I was going to try to finish tonight but got sidetracked by... laundry? I don't even know. So we'll see. If not tonight, definitely tomorrow.

My reading is going better because I finally gave up on - of all things - reading in bed. It sounds like a nice idea, but it's never as comfortable as I want it to be. And sometimes I like music and a big mug of tea or glass of wine with my book of an evening, but once I'm in my room, I can't leave to brush my teeth without the cat trying to get in, and if he hears me playing music or even turning pages or sometimes rolling over, he starts crying to get in, so it's just not very pleasant. (He's not allowed in at night because I'm mildly allergic and if there's cat hair on my sheets, I wake up wheezing. He has his own blanket to sleep on the bed during the day.) So! I am actually much more comfortable sitting at the kitchen table with music on and a mug of tea and the cat playing at my feet, and not being in bed means I read longer before falling asleep, too. This all sounds kind of obvious but it was something of a revelation for me.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Turning Christmas money into new books...

I spent some of today with a cousin I don't get to see often enough, and we started our outing at Trident. So, of course, I had to use some of my Christmas money to do my part to support one of my favorite independent bookstores! I found three books I'd been wanting, all discounted: Cover Her Face by P.D. James (her first, which I don't think I've ever read), Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (my late grandmother's favorite author), and Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog by Boris Akunin. I am excited about all three, but not allowed to start them until January!

Since Christmas I've been reading Death Comes to Pemberley. I'll probably finish it in the next day or so, and then make a push to finish a few other of the unfinished books by the end of the week. I'm saving my new Catherine the Great to start on New Year's Day. Whee!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Sorry for the lack of updates! I've been visiting family, which means lots of time helping cook and clean and not much time on the computer or reading. But! Santa brought me P.D. James's A Death at Pemberley and my brother gave me Massie's new Catherine the Great. I am VERY excited and looking forward to getting some quality reading time in tonight after the holiday madness subsides.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Packing for Christmas!

I read a lot yesterday and finished the Secret Circle trilogy, so now I'm concentrating on Claire de Lune. But I leave tomorrow to spend Christmas with my family, so it's time to decide which books to pack! I will probably get a book or two for Christmas, but I feel the need to bring a whole bunch anyway, of course. My current plan:

From the list in the sidebar: Claire de Lune, Gone with the Wind, A Game of Thrones, Liberty's Exiles, and my Kindle with The Warden on it.

Other: Team Human ARC, and Legend and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy from the library. Legend is due next week, so that will be a priority, and I'm just in the mood for Tinker Tailor.

I realize that's a little more than a book a day, but I need options! What if I only had a few books and wasn't in the MOOD for any of them? Horrors! (Yes, my parents are both readers. There are plenty of books in their house. NOT THE POINT.)

What will you be reading over the holidays?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

REVIEW: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares was, I think, the third book co-written by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, but it was the first I read; I picked it up because a bunch of people recommended it for a Christmas books thing I was writing. It's a good one for when your Christmas feelings are a little mixed - especially because of the way the point of view alternates between the two characters. Lily's always been pretty into Christmas, Dash hasn't, and this year they're both at loose ends. I liked this way better than I expected, because at first I feared that Lily would be a manic pixie dream girl, but she's not, and that's practically the point. There's some bonus awesome bookstore stuff, a lot of humor, and a nice dash - hah, I crack myself up - of romance. I'll definitely be returning to this one in Christmas seasons to come.

(Disclaimer: I know David a little from working together at a conference, but he in no way asked for this review, blah blah.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

REVIEW: Once Upon a Winter's Eve by Tessa Dare

Once Upon a Winter's Eve is set in Tessa Dare's Spindle Cove universe, but you don't have to have read the first book to understand it - though this one did make me want to read the rest! This Regency Christmas romance novella has spies and spinsters and a practical heroine and people who learn languages for the fun of it. It's a good time. My only complaint was that it was too short . . . which I realize is sort of the point of a novella . . . but I guess I like long things. And with this, specifically, I thought there was plenty of plot and character depth to maintain a full-length novel. But that's okay! I will read Tessa's other full-length novels instead!

(Disclaimer: I've chat with Tessa on Twitter on occasion, but she in no way solicited this review, and I bought my copy - I should mention that this is an ebook - on Amazon.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Why are they published like this? Why?

I finally finished Dragon Tattoo today, and was in the mood so went ahead and watched the Swedish movie from a few years ago. The movie did quite a good job of cutting down on the infodump sections of the book while still making it make sense, I thought.

So, anyway, I'm on to The Secret Circle, and I find these books extremely annoying because they're a trilogy but published in two volumes, with a book and a half in each. They cut the second book off in the middle! It's maddening! That's why I'm reading all three back to back, because I can't just put it down when the second book is halfway through but the physical book I'm reading is over. I'm sure they did it for marketing reasons, but it's driving me nuts.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sleepy Saturday

Yesterday I finished and reviewed Alias Dragonfly - you can see that below - but I didn't make much progress in Dragon Tattoo because I fell asleep while reading. I'm determined to finish tonight, unless I fall asleep again, which . . . well, honestly, that's possible. I finally have a few days free after a difficult, busy fall, and sleep is sounding really good right now.

Friday, December 16, 2011

REVIEW: Alias Dragonfly

Jane Singer's Alias Dragonfly sounds like it should be right up my alley - history! Spies! Ladies doing awesome things! Alas, it wasn't quite as good as I hoped. The protagonist Madeline was interesting: a New Hampshire teenager with a crazy-good memory who winds up in the middle of Civil War espionage when her father joins the Union army. And some scenes of the book were well done, with lots of fun spy drama. But getting through other parts was a bit of a chore, and the writing was uneven. It broke the fourth wall way too often for my personal taste, but others might like that. I thought this book had potential, but it wasn't quite there yet.

(Note: I got my review ebook from NetGalley.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Quick Thoughts on You Deserve Nothing

A while ago, I read the Times's review of You Deserve Nothing, thought it sounded interesting, and got it from the library. After I had it home, but before I started reading it, I read this Jezebel piece about how the book is allegedly based on the author's own experiences having an affair with a young student. And then I had to decide whether I still wanted to read the book. Because yes, the alleged behavior is icky. But lots of authors do icky things. Where do you draw the line? Does it only matter if the bad behavior is directly related to the work, as it is here? What about killers who write murder mysteries that are not based on their crimes? Is buying different from reading from the library? I don't think reading an author implies an endorsement of the author's beliefs or actions. (Much of the time, I don't know anything about the author, anyway.) I don't think texts should be off-limits for any reasons. To take this to the extreme, I don't think it's intrinsically wrong to read Mein Kampf as an important historical document, or even just out of curiosity. Reading != agreeing.

So, last night I started You Deserve Nothing, and . . . I just didn't like it much. I read the first few chapters, and then some later bits that were told in different characters' voices, and none of them grabbed me. Would I have given it more of a chance if I didn't have negative associations with the author? Maybe. If I knew nothing about the author, would I have done what I did, which was look at my huge stack of other library books and think "I'd rather be reading them"? Probably. The reasons why we do or don't read any given book at any given time are always, always more complicated than a simple assessment of the text itself, and this happened to be one circumstance in which the other factors were more obvious than they sometimes are. I certainly wouldn't fault anyone for choosing not to read this because of the author's alleged behavior, but I don't think that's necessarily the only acceptable course of action, either. Like so many decisions related to reading, it's complex, and personal, and not really anyone else's business.

What I AM reading today: Alias Dragonfly.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A plan, of sorts

I finished Once Upon a Winter's Eve just now, and I promise I'll have reviews of that and Dash and Lily for you this weekend. (This has been a tough week, so I'm giving myself a break.) But for now, I'll say that it was completely delightful, and the only thing wrong with it was that it was short. Since, you know, it was a novella. I realize those are supposed to be short. But I would have been happy to read much much more about these characters.

My plan: I've picked something I want to finish each day/few days, and then if I have more reading time I can use it for library books or whatever. So. Tomorrow's book is Alias Dragonfly, Friday's is Dragon Tattoo. The weekend will be for the Secret Circle trilogy, then Monday for Claire de Lune and Tuesday for the Kleypas. If I keep to that schedule, I'll have 11 days for the other four books, which . . . might possibly be doable, depending on how much free time I end up with over the holidays. We'll see.

I did want to talk for a moment about why I haven't started Team Human or some of the other things sitting here that I'm really eager to read. It's partially that I'm trying to finish the list in the sidebar, but honestly, it's mostly something else. Frankly, I've been pretty miserable recently. There's a big thing going on with a close family member that means I'm always worrying and never giving my full attention to anything else. So I've been reluctant to start Team Human because I don't want it to be forever associated in my mind with this awful thing my family is going through. But... I guess it's probably too late for that. So at this point, I think I'm saving it to be a treat sometime in the next few weeks when I REALLY need a pick-me-up.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Library Report: Again...

This is going to sound familiar: I got Liberty's Exiles out of the library again today, because I really like it, I swear! Maybe I'll even be able to finish it this time. I also picked up two things from the new YA display: Tris & Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison, because I love retellings, and The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle, because - not to get too personal - I'm in the middle of some tough family stuff and this looked like it had a family situation a million times worse and therefore might be . . . comforting? Or instructional? Or an excuse to wallow? I'm not sure. We'll see!

Reading update: I did finish Dash and Lily last night, so I'll have a review of that for you soon. Now it's Tessa Dare time so I can get that holiday books post done this week.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Kindle update!

Since I finished reading the review books, today I reregistered my Kindle to myself so I can start using it for other things. I'm not planning to buy a lot for it, but it will be great for NetGalley books and library books and the occasional ebook-only book I want to purchase. I made a little progress on Alias Dragonfly - that's from NetGalley and I had previously just been reading it on my laptop screen. I also downloaded Tessa Dare's Once Upon a Winter's Eve, so I can read that this week and potentially include it in my holiday reads post.

In non-Kindle news, I think I have exactly 100 pages of Dash and Lily left, so I will probably end up finishing that tonight or tomorrow morning, depending on how sleepy I am!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Done with all four Kindle books, so I can stop being so cryptic about what I'm reading! I hope I'll be able to say more about those soon. But for now, I shall concentrate on Dash and Lily. I have a bunch of family stuff going on, so I didn't get to read as much as I'd hoped over the weekend, and nothing from that list in the sidebar. But I'm hoping to get at least two of those books done this week.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A delightful surprise!

I read a bunch of Dash and Lily last night, and I'm loving it. Perfect for my current mood. But today I focused on the (alas, still embargoed) Kindle books. I finished book three and started book four, and it turns out I LOVE this last one. The other three were fine but unremarkable, so I expected the same for the fourth, but instead, I'm really excited about it. So that's been a nice surprise at the end of what has mostly been a "duty" read. I mean, it's not that I haven't liked the others, but I wouldn't necessarily have picked them up (or finished them) if I hadn't been asked to review them. But this one! I can't wait to tell you about this one! Soon! I hope!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Weekend trip

I have safely made it to my parents' house for the weekend. I wound up bringing the Kindle plus Dash and Lily, Janet Evanovich's Hot Six (because it's due back at the library soon), and Team Human. I'm going to try to finish the Kindle books tomorrow so I can get started on that review.

I started Dash and Lily last night, and read more at a rest stop when I grabbed dinner tonight, and I'm loving it so far - a lot more than I expected, actually. I'm planning to read a bunch more of that tonight, and probably finish it tomorrow. One great and unusual feature: At the moment (40 pages in), I have no idea whether the characters are going to end up together, and I don't even know if I want them to. It's really refreshing. As is this line: "This was the miracle of the season, the way it put the fuck off so loud in our hearts." Preach it, Dash. Because . . . well, I love Christmas, but what he says is also very true.

I tend to get a lot of reading done when I'm at my parents' house, because I have fewer distractions/other obligations, and because they go to bed earlier than I do. So I have high hopes for making some serious progress this weekend.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Oops #1: No way am I finished Liberty's Exiles by tomorrow. I dropped it back at the library tonight. My dad has a copy - I gave it to him for Father's Day - so I'll probably steal borrow his, and/or get it out from the library again next time it's in. It's interesting! I swear! I just forgot it was due, and then didn't have much time.

Oops #2: Two books I accidentally-on-purpose found myself ordering this week arrived today: The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I am looking forward to them both. But not yet!

Tonight I will start Dash and Lily's Book of Dares. Tomorrow I leave for Connecticut. Must figure out which books to pack. Will update you on my decision tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Library Report: Why did I get this, again?

(This will be another ongoing feature - I will report on what I get from the library so you can yell at me/point and laugh if I don't actually read it. I have a very bad habit of borrowing more books than I possibly have time for and returning them unread. Must get better about that.)

I went to the library after work today because I had two holds come in. The first was Marie Lu's Legend, which I've heard awesome things about and am quite excited to read. The second was Michael Ondaatje's The Cat's Table, which . . . huh? Why do I have this? I know Ondaatje is quite popular and critically acclaimed, but the only one of his I've read is The English Patient, and I didn't particularly like this. And yet, I must have read something about this new one that made me put myself on the library's hold list for it, and now that it's here, I can't remember what. I thought maybe it was on the Booker longlist, but I just checked, and no. It's a mystery. ANYWAY. I guess I will give it a try!

I also wandered the YA section a bit, as I am wont to do, and picked up Rachel Hawkins's Demonglass, since I liked Hex Hall, and also Paula Jolin's In the Name of God, because it looked interesting and I like borrowing books I've never heard of sometimes, to break me out of my little bubble of authors I know/authors they know/etc.

Actual reading: Haven't had much time, but I'm plugging away at Liberty's Exiles. I shouldn't say "plugging away" because it's fascinating! Just a little slower than many of the books I read. Also, I keep accidentally ordering books this week, but I will report on THOSE when they arrive.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Shifting priorities

I read about half of the third Kindle book last night, but today I found out that the embargo is lasting longer than previously announced. And that means that I might actually have time to finish Liberty's Exiles! Yay! I also rescheduled the thing I'm writing about Christmas books for next week, so I can push Dash and Lily to the weekend if necessary. So. Yes. All Jasanoff all the time for the rest of the week.

Book acquisition report: I went to Barnes & Noble and picked up Clockwork Prince. At this rate, I won't get to it for a few weeks, but I wanted to make sure I got a first printing because they have some special features, so I went ahead and bought it. It strikes me that this is a weird week to be starting this - my reading is not usually so deadline-prescribed, I promise.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wildly exciting mail day!

First - I did get the second Kindle book finished last night, and I've started the third one. Don't worry; I'll post the reviews retroactively.

I got an ARC in the mail today of Team Human, the co-written vampire novel by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier that's coming out next year. I am SO EXCITED about this book, and ridiculously thrilled to have an ARC. But, you know, I have all those deadlines I was talking about yesterday. So I've decided that if I finish what I need to do this week, I will let myself read Team Human this weekend. Yay, motivation!

REVIEW: The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John Le Carré

John Le Carré is one of my father's favorite authors, so I've been meaning to read his books for years; with the Tinker Tailor movie about to come out, I decided it was time. (I read the first two books this summer.) The Spy Who Came In from the Cold was Le Carré's third book, and his most famous hero, master spy George Smiley, appears in it, though not as the protagonist. It's a short little book - the edition I have is only 212 pages - but that makes the complexity and precision of the plotting even more impressive. (My dad tells me that this one seems "narrow in scope" compared to the later books, so I can't wait to see what those are like.) It's about a British spy who pretends to be a double agent in order to bring down a top East German - or so he thinks. What's actually going on, and who's really betraying whom, is what he has to find out. It's quite a ride, and it all eventually comes clear - before it ends on a fascinatingly ambiguously note. I've been talking about the plotting, but Le Carré's language also makes his books stand out from your average spy thriller. His writing is spare and compact but gorgeous. This book would be a good introduction to Le Carré, I think - it's better than his earlier ones (which are quite good!) but shorter and perhaps more accessible than the later ones.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

One down!

Well, this is off to a reasonable start. I finished The Spy Who Came In from the Cold last night. It was GREAT; review tomorrow. I'm glad I'm finally managing to read Le Carré, because he's one of my father's favorite authors, and I've been meaning to read him for years and years. And I'm extra glad that I'm really liking the books on their own merits, aside from the warm associations I have with them.

And the Kindle books: I finished the first one this afternoon and am almost halfway done with the second. I'll probably try to finish that tonight, or at least come close. I'm still in the mood for Larsson but the deadline for that isn't quite as soon as some other deadlines I have, so I'm putting that on the back burner for now. Here are my priorities for the upcoming week instead:

1. The Kindle books: there are four total. The press embargo lifts Thursday so I'd like to have them done by Wednesday so I have time to write. So far, they've been quick reads, so I'm not too worried. These are the first books I've read on a Kindle, and it's an interesting experience. I don't think I'm going to completely convert any time soon, but it will be a nice option to have for travel, certain library books, etc.

2. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carré: I watched the first five hours of the BBC miniseries today - sensing a theme? - so I have one more hour to watch and then I'm going to read the book. The new movie comes out next weekend, and I really want to read the book before seeing the movie.

3. Liberty's Exiles by Maya Jasanoff: This is on the "unfinished books" list, and it's due back at the library on Friday, so it will be my priority from that list this week. It's interesting but a little slow going.

4. City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare: As I mentioned yesterday, I want to finish this and then read Clockwork Prince as quickly as possible so I don't get completely spoiled. CP is out on Tuesday and I'll start it as soon as I finish CoFA.

5. Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn: I'm working on something about Christmas books, and a bunch of people suggested this, so I need to read it to see if it should be included. That post is scheduled to go up Friday, so the goal is to finish this by Thursday.

Hrm. This is one of those lists that seemed fine in my head but looks ridiculously ambitious now that I've written it out. Oh well. We'll see what I can do. In the comments,* someone suggested quitting the multi-book habit cold turkey. I've tried that. Many times. It just doesn't work for me. I generally have one main book and an alternate or two for when I'm not in the mood. To clarify, though, the list on the right is not meant to imply that I was reading all of those at once. Rather, those are all books I picked up, read part of, and then abandoned with the bookmark in. I like all of them, so far; I just got distracted. So that's why I'm making a conscious effort to concentrate on them now.

* I'm going to be responding to comments in posts, because there's no way to make them threaded and this seems like the best way to let people know I've responded.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

December's Project

I'm not actually starting this project until January 1, but the fact that my 100 books will only count things I both start and finish in 2012 means that this month I need to finish as many books as possible that I've abandoned somewhere in the middle. Now, I'm not going to let myself not read these books in 2012 if necessary, but they won't count toward the 100, and I'd like to start with as clean a slate as possible. Here's what I have, roughly in the order I plan to concentrate on them, based on how many pages I have left, how quick a read each is, and, in one case, library deadlines. I want to get the quick ones done first so the total number is cut down. And hey, I'm starting with 10! That's a nice even number.
1. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carré
2. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
3. Liberty's Exiles by Maya Jasanoff
4. Alias Dragonfly by Jane Singer
5. Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson
6. Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas
7. The Secret Circle trilogy by L.J. Smith
8. The Warden by Anthony Trollope
9. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
10. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Of course, the fact that I'm trying to concentrate on these doesn't mean that there's nothing else I have to (or want to) be reading, so. This weekend, I want to finish the Le Carré and the Larsson, and I also have a set of four books on my Kindle I need to make progress on for a review next week. (I can't say much about that yet because there's a press embargo.) And I want to get Cassie Clare's City of Fallen Angels (which I finally just started the other night) done soon so I can read Clockwork Price as soon as possible after it comes out on Tuesday.

Today's goal: Finish The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and the first Kindle book.

About the Project

The past few years, I've often felt like I need to make a point of spending more time reading. I always mean to, but I have several jobs and family commitments and apparently need some external accountability. And I have a related problem of starting lots of books and never getting around to finishing them. So here we are! In 2012, I resolve to read at least 100 books from start to finish. And blog about it.

These blog posts will take a few different forms. First, I will of course review the books I finish. Some reviews may be longer than others, but I'll write at least a paragraph about each one. I'll also tell you what I get from the library, what I buy, etc. - again, if I tell you, I'm more likely to actually read the new books rather than admire them on my shelf! And almost every day, I'll write a little bit about what I'm reading and why I picked it, what's going on in my life that gives me more or less time to read, etc. I'm sort of afraid those posts will be horribly boring - and all the reviews will be in their own category so you can ignore this other stuff if you want - but I'm interested in the way reading interacts with the other aspects of our lives and I want to record and explore that for a while. I will not be offended if you ignore my blathering and just read reviews, though!